Justice Minister Given Lubinda says the reason why government made a lot of appeals for submissions to the Constitution Amendment Bill consultation process was that it understood it was not possible to consult every citizen individually.
And Lubinda says government shouldn’t be blamed for the fact that his ministry only got 101 submissions from the consultation process across the country because it simply shows that people did not want to participate.
Speaking when made submissions to the Parliamentary Select Committee which was scrutinizing Constitution Amendment Bill number 10, Lubinda said the reason why government, through his ministry, made so many appeals was because it wanted to get as many submissions as possible.
And responding to Lukulu West UPND member of parliament Chrsitopher Kalila who wanted to know why engagements on the Constitution Amendment process seemed to have been speedy and noninclusive, Lubinda said politicians needed to understand the concept of representative democracy which was being practiced in Zambia.
“The consultation is provided for through the gazettion of the intended amendment. The intention of the crafters of the Constitution was that put it in the gazette and those who have views will present their views, through who? Through committees of parliament. I would like that members of parliament should be aware of these processes so that they can go and tell their people what the provision of the law is because to come and assume that this is wrong when actually the law is there and we are the legislators is not fair. It is us who should know that once you gazette an intended amendment to the Constitution, the people will not go on radio and think that because they have spoken on radio then Parliament will hear, now! There are procedures. Even in our standing orders, Mr Chairman, there are procedures on how we’ll come and express our views,” Lubinda said.
“The fact that the sittings did not take place in Kabwata constituency does not mean that we did not consult. We also ought to be honest politicians who understand the concept of representative democracy. For goodness sake, it’s is not possible in any country to consult every citizen, it is not possible. The reason why we made so many appeals was because we wanted to get as many submissions as possible. The fact that we got 101 submissions should not be blamed on me, it should not blamed on the state, how could it be? Unless somebody wants to demonstrate that ‘look, there are people who wanted to submit here but you stopped them’. We didn’t stop anyone, unless evidence is adduced that we stopped somebody. But if there is no evidence that we stopped any people, please stay away from saying there were very few submissions because we had to work with what was provided. We couldn’t manufacture submissions.”
Meanwhile, responding to a question from Zambezi East UPND member of parliament Brain Kambita who wanted to know why the Committee had only invited the same people who attended the National Dialogue Forum (NDF) to make submissions on Bill 10, Lubinda said he had no idea because he did not draft the list of invitees.
“Sir, I was asked a question that here in Parliament we were engaging the same stakeholders, why are you doing that Sir? Why are you engaging the same stakeholders? I wasn’t there to select them, you as committee selected the stakeholders, it’s not me, not government. So if there were other stakeholders whom you wanted to engage why didn’t you bring them? Particularly those that did not attend the NDF, you should have coerced them to come here, to come and explain why they didn’t go to the NDF. But to come and tell me ‘we are consulting the same people’, government did not give you a list of people to consult, did we? No Sir, that was your desire as committee. How I wish we invited those that have been on radio and have gone to Intercontinental Hotel, you should have said ‘please this is Parliament, its not NDF, this is your Parliament. Come and tell us your objections’,” Lubinda said.
The minister also said the Ministry could not force anyone to participate in the Constitution Amendment process because doing so was undemocratic.
“Those who don’t want to take part in a national process, what could we do Sir? Sir, isn’t it undemocratic to force people to participate in a national process? We are not a dictatorial government, we are a highly democratic government and those who choose they have nothing to do with this, we let them be, there is nothing we can do about it. If these were those who said ‘give us transport money’, we may have even considered it. But they didn’t. Honourable Kambita, I am afraid that we given even much more time than any other Constitution making processes in the past. And I think that what President Lungu deserves is commendation rather than vilification,” said Lubinda.
And winding up the sittings, committee Chairperson nominated member of parliament Raphael Nakacinda thanked his committee members and the witnesses for making an appearance.